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Salt Lake City Weekly Countdown to the Grammys

Who will win? What will they wear? Who cares? A partial guide to the 40th Annual Grammy Awards.

By Bill Frost

FEBRUARY 23, 1998:  There's a certain excitement in the air, can you feel it? No, it's not something wafting in from Tooele, but a bona fide Big Media Event that happens at the end of February every year — what could it be? With this press release, allow me to disappoint you as only I can:

"Vince Gill, Chris Rock and Sting have been added as presenters; music superstars and Grammy nominees Babyface, Hanson, Luciano Pavarotti, LeAnn Rimes, George Strait and Stevie Wonder will perform on the 40th Annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Kelsey Grammer, to be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 7-10 p.m. MST, on the CBS television network."

After weeks of (yawn) Nagano Olympics coverage, CBS seems hell-bent on driving every last Wednesday-night TV viewer away to Dharma & Greg repeats or — dear God, no! — reading. Compared to other music-biz awards shows that have sprung up in the past 40 years — the Billboard Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Country Music Awards, the Rap Music Survivor and Marksmanship Awards — the Grammy Awards are about as thrilling as the prospect of unclogging the toilet for the sixth time this month while giving your Significant Other the "tampons don't flush!" speech that they've already memorized from last month.

The thought of Frasier star and impaired-driving instructor Kelsey Grammer — Grammer? Grammys? Get it? — hosting this three-hour dog-and-pony show doesn't help much, either. Sure, he's great for a 30-minute sit-com, but three hours? Next year, get a host who can go the distance: Jerry Springer, G. Gordon Liddy — anybody. Even Strom Thurmond sitting on Carmen Electra's lap for three hours, drooling and holding up flash cards, would be an improvement.

Chances are that a few of you will actually watch the Grammys, and that "few of you" is the exact target audience of this week's column: a partial sampling of nominees, followed by insightful picks of who should win and who will win. It's bold, it's innovative, and yes, just a bit frightening. But breaking into new territory always is. Look for the national press to steal this hot new idea and run with it as their own next week.

RECORD OF THE YEAR — nominees: "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" Paula Cole; "Sunny Came Home," Shawn Colvin; "Everyday Is a Winding Road," Sheryl Crow; "MMMBop," Hanson; "I Believe I Can Fly," R. Kelly. Who should win: As much as I like Hanson and Sheryl Crow, I'm going to have to go with Paula Cole here — I'm pulling for a Cole sweep, actually. She's up for seven awards, including the obscure Best Nude Album Cover Involving Fire and a Swing, so that ought to be worth something. Who will win: Suave dickhead R. Kelly will likely win because of Space Jam's important social message: breaking down the walls between cartoon characters and huge, well-paid basketball stars — can't we all just get along?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR — nominees: The Day, Babyface; This Fire, Paula Cole; Time Out of Mind, Bob Dylan; Flaming Pie, Paul McCartney; OK Computer, Radiohead. Who should win: Since I've already sworn my allegiance to Cole, I'm going to have to pass over the only other decent album in the running here, Radiohead's OK Computer — like it had a chance in hell of winning, anyway. Paul McCartney? Capitol Records insiders say that the original title for this was Steaming Pie From an Increasingly Irrelevant Ass, but they couldn't come up with a marketing plan. Who will win: Babyface — he'll be 68 soon, he needs a perk or two to carry on.

SONG OF THE YEAR — nominees: "Don't Speak," No Doubt; "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yearwood; "I Believe I Can Fly," R. Kelly; "Sunny Came Home," Shawn Colvin; "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" Paula Cole. Who should win: You know, Paula Cole. How is this different from Record of the Year? Got me. Who will win: No Doubt's "Don't Speak" because it was originally released in about 1985 and the Grammy cognoscenti know that they'll never put out another album.

BEST NEW ARTIST — nominees: Fiona Apple, Erykah Badu, Paula Cole, Puff Daddy, Hanson. Who should win: Again, Cole. Who will win: Fiona Apple just won a Stiffy Award at the soft-porn industry gala in Atlantic City last month for her "Criminal" video, so she'll probably be shut out here. Internet buzz has it that if Erykah Badu loses to Hanson, she'll produce an AK47 from that headrap and let some daylight through the blond brothers — "MMMShot/Rat-tat-tat-tat/MMMShot" — so that won't be allowed to happen. Puff Daddy is just a grave-robbing weasel hack who has never recorded an original note in his miserable life. He will win.

BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE — nominees: "Every Time I Close My Eyes," Babyface; "Candle In the Wind 1997," Elton John; "Whenever Wherever Whatever," Maxwell; "Fly Like an Eagle," Seal; "Barely Breathing," Duncan Sheik. Who should win: Duncan Sheik, just to hear the mummerings of "Who the hell is Duncan Sheik?" echo through Radio City. Who will win: "Fly Like an Eagle"? "Candle In the Wind"? This is the 1998 Grammy Awards, right? Elton John is just a grave-robbing weasel hack who hasn't recorded an original note in his miserable post-'70s life. He will win.

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE — nominees: "Butterfly," Mariah Carey; "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" Paula Cole; "Sunny Came Home," Shawn Colvin; "Foolish Games," Jewel; "Building a Mystery," Sarah McLachlan. Who Should Win: Don't make me come over there. Who will win: Even though the judges are hoping for Jewel to wear another see-through dress like the one she barely wore at last year's awards, this one will go to Mariah Carey. This loss will prompt Sarah McLachlan to not invite "that scrawny bitch" aboard this year's Lilith Fair. Carey will then orchestrate a leveraged buyout of the Lilith Fair and turn it into a traveling pajama party.

BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A GROUP — nominees: "Silver Springs," Fleetwood Mac; "MMMBop," Hanson; "Virtual Insanity," Jamiroquai; "Don't Speak," No Doubt; "Anybody Seen My Baby?" the Rolling Stones. Who should win: Fleetwood Mac? The Rolling Stones? Again, what year is it?! While Jamiroquai's Jay Kay faces off with Erykah Badu in a no-holds-barred headwear battle, Hanson ought to take this one handily. Who will win: No Doubt — who can resist another eloquent acceptance speech from Gwen "Barbie-on-helium" Stefani?

BEST POP ALBUM — nominees: This Fire, Paula Cole; The Dance, Fleetwood Mac; Traveling Without Moving, Jamiroquai; Surfacing, Sarah McLachlan; Hourglass, James Taylor. Who should win: Just move along. Who will win: The presence of Fleetwood Mac and James Taylor brings the year into question again — Jamiroquai will win simply for being under the age of 60. Being wasted, Jay Kay will try walking to the podium to accept, but the floor will keep moving under his feet and he'll never make it to the stage.

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, NON-CLASSICAL — nominees: Walter Afanasieff (Allure, Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, Kenny Loggins, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand & Celine Dion, Kenny Loggins); Babyface (Az Yet, Babyface, Boyz II Men); Paula Cole (Paula Cole); Kirk Franklin (God's Property); Keith Thomas (Amy Grant, Vanessa Williams, Luther Vandross, Brian McKnight, Vanessa Williams). Who should win: See, when Paula Cole sweeps all seven categories she's up for she will, of course, give credit to the guy in Salt Lake City who believed in her. Then, next time she comes through town, she'll invite me into her plush, Grammy Award-winner-worthy tour bus, where we'll play Earthquake II and eat Doritos all night long — this is the plan. Who will win: Kirk Franklin — he's got Him on his side, you know.

BEST MUSICAL ALBUM FOR CHILDREN — nominees: All Aboard!, John Denver; Bigger Than Yourself, John McCutcheon; Shakin' a Tailfeather, Taj Mahal, Eric Bibb & Linda Tillery; Songs From a Parent to a Child, Art Garfunkel; This Land Is Your Land, Arlo Guthrie & Woody Guthrie. Who should win: Paula Cole's not nominated here, so the Grammy really should go the the coolest cats in the running — Taj Mahal & Co. Who will win: The sentimental vote will go to the late John Denver — catch the title of that album? All Aboard? Would you let your kids aboard a small aircraft piloted by an intoxicated '70s folk singer with suicidal tendencies? "I was somebody, you stupid brats! 'Rocky Mountain High'? That was me! Get in the goddamned plane! You're gonna have fun whether you like it or not! Where's that thermos with my 'special medicine'?"

Now, use this page to keep score on Grammy night: If your picks in these 10 categories beat mine, you'll win an all-expenses paid, rock & roll weekend with City Weekly party animal Ben Fulton [prize subject to change, void where prohibited].

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